As earlier temptation episodes foretold, the devil left Jesus “for a season” but reappeared time and again to test him in the form of possessed outcasts. Here, in a barren landscape pocked with caves and tombs—a terrain familiar from Tissot’s sketches of the Valley of Hinnom—Jesus encounters two men afflicted with demons, while a herd of swine wanders on the horizon. Tissot notes that the Gentiles, sometimes in the employ of Jews, tended swine in these lands, despite Jewish tradition, which regarded the animals as unclean.
According to Matthew, so fearsome were these possessed men that few dared to roam in these lands. Nude, emaciated, and long-haired, the men jump and flail before Jesus and the disciples. Casting the devils out, Jesus urges them to join the swine, which run over a cliff and plummet to their deaths in the sea below.
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James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). The Two Men Possessed with Devils (Les deux démoniaques), 1886-1894. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Image: 6 5/8 x 9 7/8 in. (16.8 x 25.1 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.105
Purchased by public subscription
Image: 6 5/8 x 9 7/8 in. (16.8 x 25.1 cm); Sheet: 6 5/8 x 9 7/8 in. (16.8 x 25.1 cm); Frame: 15 x 20 x 1 1/2 in. (38.1 x 50.8 x 3.8 cm)